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It was new information for me to discover that World War II was actually two conflicts melded together (Shubert & Goldstien, 2012). My father’s conversations with me per the Second World War had more to do with the trauma of war and much less about history. My dad was in his early twenties when he served and the end of the war was nearing. He and his unit were assigned to “Clean Up” and everything that implies. It held nothing but horror for him. My father was a tough man with no self-serving sympathy whatsoever but memories about the Second World War could produce tears.
We are all well aware of Hitler’s dream of a pure (Aryan) race. This particular crazed dream encompasses one of the conflicts per the War. He very simply wanted to eliminate anyone and everyone who did not fit his ideal. (I am not a believer in any of the philosophical points to ponder pertaining to whether or not Hitler knew of the extermination). Hitler’s hatred of the Jews was the starting point for his elimination of those he deemed inferior. This soon included homosexuals, gypsies and the mentally handicapped (2012). More important, Hitler needed additional land for his perfect race. Our text called this land, “Lebensraum” (2012). When Hitler ordered the invasion of Poland in 1939 (to step up his acquisition of land), France and Great Britain declared war on Germany (2012). The second conflict encompassed Japan’s ambitions to (also) expand their territory. Although they had already invaded other countries, the Asian part of the conflict began when they attacked our Pearl Harbor. The United States entered when they declared war on Japan in 1941 (2012).
There were many differences between World War I and World War II. World War I (The Great War) lasted 4 years from 1914-1918. World War II lasted 6 years from 1939-1945 (2012). My father was still serving overseas when he received the devastating news that his mother had died over one month earlier. (Remember: Communication was not at all like it is today). Dad would always smile big when he told me that my birth was one of the few good things that happened for him in the year 1945. I was born after my grandmother’s death with him still overseas. War was very different then. Men were truly away and completely out of touch from their families with no cell phones and certainly no “face time”. Letters took forever to find them if they found them at all.
However, another kind of technology had arrived and made the Second World War much more invasive and certainly more aggressive. We previously discussed trench warfare in the First World War and its devastating drawbacks. Imagine the difference in my father’s war. Nuclear power and missiles along with submarines and better tanks upped the ante for those countries who had them at their disposal (2012). One of the greatest differences in my father’s war was the systemized and strategically planned extermination of a generation of Jewish citizens. World War II was known as the deadliest conflict in human history.
Claudia Goldin (1991) tells us, “Fully one-sixth of the working women in 1944 were in war-related industry i.e. fabricated metals, airplane assembly, rubber, chemicals.” Many women were also in clerical positions. Yet, interestingly, Goldin also concluded in her study that, “Wartime work did not by itself greatly increase women’s employment.” (1991). Many women left their jobs willingly after the war while others were simply replaced by men returning home. Goldin further proposed that the shift for women in the workplace after World War II was due more to, “The rise of the clerical sector and increased education” (1991). So, although women stepped into work their husbands and sons left behind when they entered the war, additional factors contributed to the changing face of women in the workplace besides simply that of the war. I still wonder if their experience in the workforce was the impetus for women toward a difference in their decision-making per their future?
D-Day, occurred in June1944. This was an all out combined assault against France by the British and American forces. Air force (bombing missions & paratroopers), ground troops, and ships joined rank. The famous landing in Normandy was a success albeit there were 9000 casualties (2012). My father spoke of the Battle of the Bulge often. The Germans were defeated by the Allies (there) in December 1944. This was followed by our invasion of Germany the following February. We dropped the bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki as we pushed for Japan’s complete surrender. The official end of World War II was on May 8, 1945. However, my father did not return home for a long, long, while…. after this.
Europe was changed dramatically after the War. First, it was a continent divided into “spheres of influence” (2012). It now had foreign troops on its soil and freedom apart from this would not be forthcoming any time soon. Germany was deflated in power and status. The war had changed economics throughout Europe. Most important, the Holocaust leveled respect for Germany and any countries suspected of collaboration in the atrocities. Europe, known for its cultural status, had lost this position in the sight of the world.
Shubert, A. & Goldstein, R. J. (2012). Twentieth-century Europe. San Diego, CA: Bridgepoint Education, Inc.
Goldin, C. D. (1991). The role of World War II in the rise of women’s employment. The American Economic Review, Volume 81, Issue 4 (Sept., 1991), 741-756.